• Kyodo

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Kai Harada and Miho Nonaka sealed Japan's final sport climbing berths in next summer's Tokyo Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed a suit by the Japan Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Association, the body said Saturday.

Although the ruling does not change the number of Japanese who will compete in sport climbing's Olympic debut, it still hurts. The decision deprives other athletes of a chance to qualify and deprives would-be Olympians of the chance to sharpen their skills through competing in summer qualifying events.

The JMSCA had sued in an attempt to hold off on naming its final two Olympic sport climbers from among the remaining candidates. The trouble arose over confusion regarding the International Federation of Sport Climbing qualification policies.

The JMSCA worked on the assumption that only two Japanese from last year's world championships in Tokyo would qualify for the Olympics, with the remainder to be decided by the association after other qualifying events. Tomoa Narasaki won Japan's first men's berth at the worlds, while Akiyo Noguchi earned the host nation's first women's spot.

The IFSC then took the Japanese federation by surprise by changing its interpretation and announcing that Harada had qualified as Japan's second man, and Nonaka as the JMSCA's second woman based on their results at the worlds.

The JMSCA filed a lawsuit with the CAS in November last year, partly because Japanese climbers headed into the world championships under the assumption that only one spot for each gender was at stake in August 2019.

"I'm relieved a conclusion has been reached, first of all," Harada said after the CAS decision. "But it's not something I can be wholeheartedly happy about. I don't want anyone to go through the same kind of situation in the future."

The JMSCA said in a statement it did its best to have its own qualification process accepted, but it "disappointingly was not accepted."

"We feel we did what we had to do as the sport's governing body (in Japan) in filing a lawsuit with the CAS, but we sincerely apologize that the path for climbers, who under our criteria could still possibly qualify for the Olympics, has been cut," it said.

Nonaka seconded that thought.

"It's not only me. This is a bitter pill to swallow for other athletes as well," she said.

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